WASHINGTON DC — This is what two generations of Filipinos uniting behind one cause looks like.
Fil-Am millenials in Washington DC held a cocktail mixer to raise funds to properly recognize Filipino World War II veterans with a congressional gold medal.
“Today we want to celebrate the service of our Filipino WWII who fought alongside the American veterans for freedom and for democracy around the world, so this event is to highlight their efforts and hopefully to raise more money to get them the congressional gold medal,” said Hristal Simanski,
Filipino Young Professionals Organization.
Last year, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill recognizing the sacrifices and contributions of Filipino veterans who fought along side American forces during the WWII.
This legislation awards the highest civilian honor — a congressional gold medal — to Filipino WWII heroes.
But the US Congress will only make one gold medal – following this medal designed by the US Mint.
The back of the medal lists provinces that were part of the war theater in the Philippines.
Jon Melegrito of the Filipino Veterans Recognition Project says the gold medal is now in the final stages of the minting process.
“It’s pro-forma but we’re hoping the selected design which is the front and the back, will be approved by the US secretary of treasury, and after that it will go to Philadelphia for the minting of the congressional gold medal, they will just mint one gold medal.”
260,000 bronze versions of the medals struck by the US Mint will be paid for by the Filipino-American community.
Less than 18,000 medals will be given to the those who are still living, and the rest will be awarded posthumously to their families.
This Fil-Am Pentagon consultant‘s great grandfather — a WWII veteran who survived the Bataan Death March will be one of the recipients of the bronze versions of the congressional medal.
“It means a lot, because he went through so much, we know the stories in our family; they’re a legend to us,” said April Arnold, from the family of congressional gold medal recipient Eli Arzaga. “We want him to be recognized even posthumously, just knowing he wasn’t forgotten… I can point to him and say he made an ultimate sacrifice, don’t ever forget that.”
It has been 76 years since President Franklin Roosevelt’s Military Order 81 – a call-to-arms that inspired many Filipino veterans to volunteer to fight in the war.
A national congressional gold medal presentation ceremony is planned in Washington DC come October, together with the members of the US Congress who passed the congressional gold medal bill.
“The ceremony that we’re gonna have in October is gonna be epic, for this reason alone, for the first time in history of the US and the Philippines, the American people are gonna be able to make a very tangible expression of their appreciation to Filipinos,” said Sonny Busa from Filipino veterans recognition and education project.
The 3-hour-mixer raised more than $70,000 dollars – that’s enough to mint about 1,400 bronze replicas of the congressional gold medal.
But that’s still a long way to provide 258,600 medals for the rest of the Filipino WWII heroes, living or dead.